Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Entrapment Definition:

The inducement, by law enforcement officers or their agents, of another person to commit a crime for the purposes of bringing charges for the commission of that artificially-provoked crime.

This technique, because it involves abetting the commission of a crime, which is itself a crime, is severely curtailed under the constitutional law of many states.

In the United States, entrrapment was seen as a procedural defect. In Sorrells, Justice Roberts of the United States Supreme Court wrote:

"[T]he term entrapment has been adopted by the courts to signify instigation of crime by officers of government.

"Society is at war with the criminal classes, and courts have uniformly held that in waging this warfare the forces of prevention and detection may use traps, decoys, and deception to obtain evidence of the commission of crime. Resort to such means does not render an indictment thereafter found a nullity nor call for the exclusion of evidence so procured. But the defense here asserted involves more than obtaining evidence by artifice or deception.

"Entrapment is the conception and planning of an offense by an officer, and his procurement of its commission by one who would not have perpetrated it except for the trickery, persuasion, or fraud of the officer.

"Federal and state courts have held that substantial proof of entrapment as thus defined calls for the submission of the issue to the jury and warrants an acquittal. The reasons assigned in support of this procedure have not been uniform. Thus it has been held that the acts of its officers estop the government to prove the offense. The result has also been justified by the mere statement of the rule that where entrapment is proved the defendant is not guilty of the crime charged. Often the defense has been permitted upon grounds of public policy, which the courts formulate by saying they will not permit their process to be used in aid of a scheme for the actual creation of a crime by those whose duty is to deter its commission."

In Canada, entrapment was defined as follows in R v Mack:

"The principal elements or characteristics of the defence (of entrapment) are that an offence must be instigated, originated or brought about by the police and the accused must be ensnared into the commission of that offence by the police conduct; the purpose of the scheme must be to gain evidence for the prosecution of the accused for the very crime which has been so instigated; and the inducement may be but is not limited to deceit, fraud, trickery or reward, and ordinarily but not necessarily will consist of calculated inveigling and persistent importuning. The character of the initiative taken by the police is unaffected by the fact that the law enforcement agency is represented by a member of a police force or an undercover or other agent, paid or unpaid, but operating under the control of the police. In the result, the scheme so perpetrated must in all the circumstances be so shocking and outrageous as to bring the administration of justice into disrepute....

"[T]he defence of entrapment be recognized in only the clearest of cases."


  • R. v. Mack [1988] 2 S.C.R. 903
  • Sorrells v. United States 187 U.S. 435 (1932)

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